Watching the Watchers of the Watchers

transparent-coveillanceKevin Kelly’s Why You Should Embrace Surveillance, not Fight it, in WIRED, prescribed “transparent coveillance” as the best practical solution in a world where information sloshes and duplicates and flows. I’ve known Kevin for decades as one of the sharp guys who “got” the notions in The Transparent Society long before most did.

Now it’s Home Depot reporting a massive hack-leak of customer information. A couple months ago it was Target and 110 million files. Before that? Open SSL, a critical security backbone. And before that? Shall I go on? Read this article about “Data Breach Fatigue” and how people are starting to shrug in resignation, rather than shout in outrage.

“We are in the trough of disillusionment,” says Gartner security analyst Avivah Litan. “Over 1,000 retailers have been hit; it’s not limited to Home Depot. There are 999 others that no one’s talking about.”

When will it sink in that Everything Leaks and that our best security measure will be to stop assuming there’s some solution out there, and instead adapt so that we will not be harmed — and can thrive — in a world where most information simply flows, like water. Believe it or not, we might be stronger and safer and even have more privacy, if we finally face that fact.

smile-video-cameraIn Smile, You’re on Video Camera, Futurist Virginia Postrel offers an interesting little thought experiment about the future spread of cameras and omni-veillance in our lives. The upside potential is vast… providing we remain calmly reasonable about negotiating carve-outs and exceptions. And – above all – if we demand that the light spread “upward” – at least as much as downward.

== Watching the watchers of the watchers ==

Matthew Reed Bailey wrote in, suggesting that the solution to citizen-police tension is not only to record authority, but to “layer” these recordings so that there will never be a way for cops to avoid it:

WATCHING-WATCHERS“One person directly films/videos the Authorities. Another person (or two or three) films/videos the interaction (from varying distances if possible) of the interaction between the first camera and the Authorities. And, then have several “Backup”…”

Indeed, what he describes is the absolutely necessary next step, after last year’s fantastic victory — the 2013 declaration — by both the courts and the administration — that citizens have an absolute right to record their interactions with police… the most important civil liberties decision in 30 years. Yes, it was vital! And predicted in The Transparent Society.

Of course, the next phase was obvious — a plague of cell phones and cameras “accidentally” broken by police, etc.

What I also predicted in TS was that this phase would be short lived, as a layering of recordings would take effect, with cameras at increasing distance from the action watching the watchers of the watchers. What I did NOT expect was how swiftly this transition would happen. Before 2013 was over, we got to see a man in an orange jail-jumpsuit being sentenced to a couple of years in prison, for breaking the camera-phone of the man he was arresting. Because someone further away caught him in the act.

police-shutdownThis is why we must resist attempts to give police the power to shut down all phones in an area. At minimum, we must demand that our cameras still work, in such a shut-down!

You “get” the idea. This is not so much anti-police as anti-bully. We have a right to insist, via accountability, that our police departments hire calm adults.

Take a look at What Battlestar Galactics can teach us about the Militarization of Police: A fascinating… if flawed… rumination about what several thoughtful science fiction films illustrate about the balance of powers among citizens and their protectors, the military and police.

==Transparency Apps==

Transparency-AppsBoycott and BuyPartisan are downloadable apps that let you scan product barcodes and find out if the company… or its officers… have actively supported some cause that you like… or loathe. One would hope that people use these things in moderation… except when it comes to Koch companies. At which point stringent ferocity is called for, lest the Confederacy win this round of the ongoing American Civil War.

Worried about emergency response times? The Peacekeeper App allows you to call upon neighbors in case of an emergency, sending an alert for crises Medical, Fire, Intruder, or Abduction. You can join an Emergency Response Group (ERG) or set up your own alliance of neighbors. The web site has a slightly redolent political aroma… but if it does what it claims, who cares?

Meanwhile the FTC declares that many mobile shopping apps lack sufficient transparency on privacy policies for consumers’ rights.

==Overseeing the Government==

transparency-governmentForty-seven U.S. federal Inspectors General signed a letter this month highlighting problems with access to federal records — problems they say slow their investigations and threaten their independence. In fact, the current use of IGs is scandalous — with many of them forced into conflict-of-interest, owing their appointments to the very officials they are charged to scrutinize.

I have long proposed sets of reforms that might improve the effectiveness of civil servants while simultaneously reassuring citizens that bureaucrats ARE “servants,” accountable and obeying the law. Foremost among these proposals has been IGUS — creating the office of Inspector General of the United States.   

The notion of a separate “inspectorate” dates back to Sun Yat Sen, founder of the Chinese Republic, in 1911. If all departmental and agency IGs reported to a truly independent IGUS, the shift could be so simple that the bill might fit on one page. Yet citizen confidence and trust could be multiplied several-fold.

censorshipFinally…  a very interesting analysis of censorship in China. Researchers find that “Criticisms of the state, its leaders, and their policies are routinely published, whereas posts with collective action potential are much more likely to be censored,” because these create “actionable information” for the authorities.

Seventeen fake cellphone towers were discovered across the U.S. last week. Owned by mysterious entities, they look like Verizon or AT&T towers etc, but sift and steal messages, texts… anything they want. Interceptor use in the U.S. is much higher than people had anticipated. One of our customers took a road trip from Florida to North Carolina and he found eight different interceptors on that trip.

Rumor check: a partial “debunking” or clarification of the fake cell tower story….

1 Comment

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One response to “Watching the Watchers of the Watchers

  1. dermotinillinois

    “This is not so much anti-police as anti-bully. We have a right to insist, via accountability, that our police departments hire calm adults.” And train them to remain calm, despite the challenges of their jobs. I know training and support costs more money, but my friends who are cops say they have seen bullies being made while on the job. I guess it is one reaction to the job.

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